Lyman hired as new HICOR co-director

The Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR) recently hired a new co-director.

Dr. Gary Lyman, a former researcher and professor of medicine at Duke University, joined the institute Jan. 2. Lyman, an oncologist and public health specialist, will serve as co-director of the institute.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is an institution dedicated to the elimination of cancer and related disease. In the 39 years since its founding, the center has helped to advance treatments, develop vaccines, develop immunotherapies, and save lives. In 2012, with the founding of HICOR, the center committed a portion of its considerable talent and resources to researching the cost and quality of cancer care.

HICOR was formed with the express purpose of reducing the cost and increasing the effectiveness of cancer care. For the past year and a half, the institute has been led by director Dr. Scott Ramsey, a physician and healthcare economist.

Dr. Sean Sullivan, a UW professor in pharmacy, has worked closely with HICOR since its inception. According to Sullivan, hiring Lyman has always been a top priority for Ramsey. 

“(Ramsey) and I sat down and strategized about bringing the best people to the Pacific Northwest,” Sullivan said. “We set our sights on finding a co-director who is at the very top of his field, so we went after Gary. He had a great position at Duke, very respected, but we thought, ‘What the heck? We’re going to try to get the best.’”

Sullivan said he believes the reason Lyman accepted the offer and left his previous position at Duke is because of the success of the UW, Fred Hutchinson, and other regional partners in the past, and the potential for continuing this success in the future.

According to both Ramsey and Lyman, their partnership as director and co-director was very strategic and their particular abilities are very compatible.

“I think we are very complementary in terms of our skills and the expertise we bring to this effort,” Lyman said.

While Ramsey has experience applying economic principles to healthcare and has established numerous connections with organizations related to cancer in the region, Lyman has first-hand experience providing cancer care and has been a prominent figure in oncology at the national level.

“Gary is one of the leading thought leaders in oncology,” Ramsey said. “It was natural to bring him to Seattle.”

Lyman earned his medical degree in 1972. As a practicing oncologist, he has seen firsthand the “financial toxicity” of cancer care and the effect it has on his patients.

“We know cancer patients are mortgaging their homes or go into tremendous debt for their treatments,” Lyman said.

In 1982, he earned his Master in Public Health in biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health. His decision to pursue a degree in public health was related to a growing interest in population-level health.

“I wanted my research to have more than just a local impact … far beyond the individual,” Lyman said.

In addition to improving care for cancer patients and easing the financial burden on their families, the institute also aims to assist the Fred Hutchinson faculty.

“It’s a resource for clinicians,” Ramsey said of HICOR. “A lot of researchers are focused on narrow topics and seeing how that fits into the larger picture is very important.”

Lyman believes the institute can also serve as a guide for future research organizations.

“The effort getting started here is unique, and it is likely to be a model for other parts of the country,” Lyman said.

Reach reporter Eleanor Cummins at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @elliepses

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